Stepping inside Stroud’s Flowers is like stepping into the past. From the stained glass window out front that reads “Stroud’s” to the old piano in the lobby, the floral shop is filled with nostalgia and the sweet aroma of its blooms.
Gerardo and Nancy Stroud opened Stroud’s Flowers in 1977 on Beatties Ford Road. It’s now one of Charlotte’s oldest Black-owned businesses still in operation.
When Gerardo Stroud died in the late 1990s, his family planned to sell the business to an unknown buyer — until Neil Nivens, Stroud’s godson, offered to buy it himself.
Nivens took over the shop in 2010 and now runs it alongside his wife, Christina Nivens.
Stroud’s Flowers has been in the same location for more than 40 years but will be moving in March due to a building sale.
Initially, the Nivens didn’t want to move but have since warmed up to the idea.
‘Don’t sell it to somebody else’
Neil Nivens said that once he reached a certain age, buying the shop was a “no-brainer.” He had grown up seeing Gerardo Stroud’s impact on the community and his commitment to the work.
“To me, he was an artist,” Nivens said, “He’d keep you laughing, always saying something funny to brighten up your day. He was one of those cats.”
Nivens said many people who worked in his godfather’s shop stayed in the florist field. As a teenager, he would watch Stroud work and sometimes make deliveries for him.
“At first, I wasn’t really into it,” he said, but as the years went by, he realized he could do it.
So when Nancy Stroud shared plans to sell the shop, Nivens insisted that he be the one to buy it.
“I was like, don’t sell it to somebody else that may just come and change the name and not keep the quality of work,” he said. “Because that’s one thing [my godfather] was known for, quality of work.”
Keeping that tradition was essential to Nivens, and something he said makes Stroud’s Flowers different from bigger flower companies. He recalled hearing “war stories” from unhappy customers who’d ordered from the big companies.
“With us, it’s still personal,” Nivens said. “You call, come in, and see exactly what you’ll be getting.”
A personal touch
One aspect of Stroud’s Flowers in which Neil and Christina Nivens pride themselves is the “personal” touch they give to their flowers and their unique connection with their customers.
Nivens said some of their older customers have known him since he was “knee-high to a grasshopper.” Because of their age, he said, some are unable to leave their homes or don’t feel safe traveling to the shop.
So, a few times a week, he loads up his car and delivers their flowers himself.
Not every request for a floral arrangement is a happy occasion. During the pandemic, Christina Nivens said there were days when Stroud’s Flowers would make floral arrangements for multiple funerals within the same family.
“It’s a lot of tragedy, a lot of stuff that goes home with you,” she said. “My worst thing is when they come in and it’s a baby or a mom that’s got little kids.”
A blessing in disguise
According to the couple, crime has been an issue in the community and the store. It’s currently located in an area where 166 crimes were reported in the last 180 days.
“We’ve watched a lot of murders, a lot of drug transactions. So yes, it’s time for us to go,” Christina Nivens said. She added that while they had no plans to move before the building was sold, it seems to be a good option for the store long-term.
The Nivens said they were given 30 days to find a new location when the convenience store attached to them bought out the rest of the building. Christina Nivens said she and her husband were initially angry about the forced relocation.
“And then it just hit me; I looked at my husband and said, ‘It’s a blessing in disguise,'” she said, recalling the crime and how she had grown to fear for the safety of her husband and their customers.
But if they were going to move, they wanted to remain close to the Beatties Ford Road area, the community in which the shop had built its presence.
Then, according to the couple, the same day they learned they would have to move, they found a space just a few stoplights away.
The new store, a standalone building with more space, will be located at 1504 Beatties Ford Road, across the street from Northwest School of the Arts.
“It’s home,” Christina Nivens said. “There’s no other way to put it.”
Evolving for the future, keeping the tradition
While Stroud’s will retain its long-standing presence in the Beatties Ford Road community, certain changes “had to happen,” Christina Nivens said, noting the need to build a company website and raise prices to reflect the impact of inflation and rising rent costs.
Regarding the shop’s future, the Nivens want Stroud’s Flowers to be busy but keep its local charm.
Neil Nivens said he does not want Stroud’s to become a chain. Instead, he wants to continue the quality and personal connection the shop is known for.
Christina Nivens said she hopes Stroud’s Flowers’ future is “busy” and putting smiles on customers’ faces.
The couple also noted that as much as Stroud’s Flowers means to them, they hope for a vacation someday, as long as they know the shop is left in good hands.
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